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GP practices told to plan for October start for autumn Covid jabs

GP practices told to plan for October start for autumn Covid jabs

NHS England has told GP practices to plan for an ‘early October’ start to the Covid-19 autumn vaccination programme, in a letter published yesterday.

It said that it will agree a precise start date for both the flu and Covid jab campaigns ‘in due course’.

And with advice still to come from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), NHS England asked GP practices ‘to plan on a similar basis to last autumn’, albeit with the expectation ‘that the autumn 2024 campaign may be smaller than the autumn 2023 campaign’.

Last year, residents in care homes, over-65s and those in a clinical risk group were eligible for a Covid-19 booster jab.

The national commissioner has also launched a new procurement process for the Covid vaccination service, with contracts running from September 2024 to March 2026 to ‘minimise administrative burden’ for providers.

GP practices and other providers have therefore been asked to complete a ‘response document’ by 27 June if they wish to participate in the autumn 2024 campaign.

According to NHSE, the document is short and seeks only ‘essential information’ to assure commissioners that the ‘minimum requirements’ will be met by providers.

The announcement yesterday follows previous advice that the flu vaccination programme would begin in October this year in order to maximise vaccine effectiveness.

The Government said in March that vaccinating eligible groups ‘closer to the time that the flu season commonly starts’ will ‘provide optimal protection’.

Yesterday’s letter to vaccination providers said that beginning both vaccination programmes at the same time in October ‘maximises the opportunity for co-administration while also reflecting JCVI advice that the flu vaccine’s effectiveness can wane over time’.

And it added that further detail about supply and training would be provided ahead of the campaign.

Last year, the start date for flu vaccinations was changed from September to October, and then back to September along with an earlier start for Covid vaccinations.

The change in timings for the adult flu and Covid vaccination programmes in 2023 caused confusion among GP practices, with the BMA demanding an investigation into NHS England’s ‘mismanagement’.

NHS England today urged all eligible people who have not yet had their Spring Covid booster to come forward and get protected before 30 June.

Over 3.6 million people have taken up the offer since April when the spring campaign was launched, including nearly two thirds of care home residents in England, the commissioner said.

Anyone currently aged 75 and over, or who will be aged 75 by the 30 June 2024 is eligible for the Spring booster, along with older adult care home residents and people with a weakened immune system aged six months and over.

A version of this article was first published by our sister title The Pharmacist


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